Microsoft's free promotion to upgrade Windows 8.1 installations to Windows 10 has long since passed, but some PCs are still on sale with the older OS pre-loaded and can be picked up for a bargain. Hannspree's Quanta PC on a Stick is one such device, which is available for as little as £60 at certain outlets, but how does this older device compare to newer units in the segment and should you buy one? Let's take a look.
The design of this micro PC is a joy to look at. The polished black finish fits right in when connected to a TV that shares the same look and it's incredibly compact for enhanced portability. To get a feel as to just how small this PC — which runs a full version of Windows 8.1 — is we can put it next to the Lumia 950 XL. It's tiny in comparison to the larger smartphone.
The full-sized HDMI plug sticks out from the top of the unit and all ports and buttons are on the sides of the device, leaving both the front and rear clean. There's a single micro-USB for power, a full-sized USB for accessories, and microSD for expandable storage. Two vents, one either side, help keep the device somewhat cool.
You certainly won't mind carrying it around on your travels. Not only is that down to the design and dimensions, but also the mere 38g weight —it's as heavy as a solid USB stick. Speaking of traveling, Hannspree packs everything you'll need for the road in the box. Alongside the PC stick itself, you will find a power adapter, micro-USB cable, and an HDMI extension lead.
For specifications, we have the following contained withing the outer shell:
|CPU||Quad-core Intel Atam 1.83GHz|
|Wireless||Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi|
Looking at the specifications, one can already spot where bottlenecks will appear… which is everywhere. While 2GB of RAM isn't the worst I've ever seen, it's still nowhere near enough for even moderate multi-tasking. From a cold start, the system will hit the Windows login screen in around 20 seconds, which isn't too bad considering the processor capabilities.
Actual performance is similar to that of a moderately powerful Windows tablet. Playing games and enjoying content at resolutions of 1080p or above will cause some issues with the number of frames rendered. Even some lighter games from the Windows Store failed to hit maximum FPS of our TV constantly and you'll notice some sluggish performance using the Windows desktop.
But again, this PC set us back on £60. We're not expecting it to rival the performance of a mid-tier desktop with an Intel Core i5 processor and full ATX motherboard. Expectations when picking up an Intel Atom-powered device should be set at reasonable levels. As for wireless connectivity, Bluetooth worked fine, while Wi-Fi did disconnect a few times from the network. We also found our USB cable to be faulty and did not supply the unit with stable power, though swapping in a different cable worked just fine.
It's also worth noting that the PC on a Stick can get hot under load, though you won't be spending much time holding it in your hand.
To get started, you'll need to have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse at hand or a USB hub with enough ports to handle both peripherals. Once Windows is fully configured for use, it will take a good few hours to download and install all updates and software you require. This includes anti-virus, productivity suites, communications tools, media apps, and a few games for good measure.
Playing media and light use are where the PC stick shines. Pair up the PC on a Stick with Network Attached Storage and you've got streamlined access to terabytes of content on the big screen without reaching for the desktop or a laptop. Movies can be enjoyed without issue and web browsing is an enjoyable experience when stretched out on the couch with a wireless keyboard and mouse.
Should you buy it?
If it's on discount, absolutely. If not, I'd give it a pass in favor of a Windows 10-powered compute stick. The overall experience of Quanta's older compact PC is a fairly good one, though the overpowered OS shows how the internals of such devices have advanced for Windows 10 and we should look to more powerful components being packed into the small cases in future devices.
It's amazing how we've reached the point where such power can be available inside a unit that's smaller than your average smartphone of today and you can get so much done if you're able to overlook the laggy experience and obvious limitations of a PC stick.
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